Former Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday said that NSA leaker Edward Snowden is a “traitor” and that he is suspicious of the leaker’s motivations.
“I think he’s a traitor. I think he has committed crimes in effect by violating agreements given the position he had. He was a contractor employee, but he obviously had been granted top-secret clearance. And I think it’s one of the worse occasions in my memory of somebody with access of classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States,” Cheney told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
Cheney said he was “deeply suspicious” of Snowden’s relationship with China and worried he had connections with China prior to releasing these documents.
“I am very, very worried,” Cheney said, “that he still has additional information that he hasn’t released yet. That the Chinese would welcome the opportunity and probably willing to provide immunity for him or sanctuary for him in exchange for what he presumably knows or doesn’t know. … I don’t think this is just a one-off disclosure.”
The National Security Agency released information on Sunday that the “controversial data-collection programs” have stopped terrorist attacks in the U.S and “more than 20 other countries.”
White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough said the White House does not currently know where Snowden is on CBS’ Face the Nation. Unlike Cheney, he declined to label Snowden a traitor.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.) disputed claims that Snowden is a whistleblower on State of the Union.
“A whistleblower comes to the appropriate authorities with appropriate classifications so that we can investigate any possible claim. He didn’t do that,” Rogers said. “He grabbed up information. He made preparations to go to China and then he collected it up, bolted to China and then decided he was going to disclose very sensitive information national security information.”
“I think he’s betrayed his country and he should be treated just like that,” Rogers said.
However, not everyone feels Snowden was wrong. Senators such as Mark Udall (D., Co.) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.) continued to question the legality of the programs.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Udall reiterated views he expressed last week, noting that the PRISM program was effective. However, he remains skeptical of some of the programs.
“I don’t think collecting millions and millions of Americans phone calls … is making us any safer,” Udall said. “I think it’s ultimately perhaps a violation of our 4th Amendment.” He said he planned to introduce legislation this week to narrow searches to those who “have a link to terrorism.
Paul last week said he would file a class action lawsuit against the NSA. He continues to call into question the constitutionality of the surveillance programs.
Cheney said he believed Paul was wrong on this issue.
“When you consider the possibility of somebody smuggling something like a nuclear device in the United States, it becomes very important to gather intelligence on your enemies and stop that attack before it ever gets launched,” Cheney said.
The debate over surveillance is unlikely to subside, but lawmakers in support of the programs hope the NSA will release additional examples of the programs subverting terrorist attacks.
Rogers noted that these kinds of instances would be provided “hopefully early this next week.”
Lawmakers are also focusing on Syria following the president’s decision to arm Syrian rebels.
“We believe the rebels need to be armed, the moderate elements of those rebels,” Senator Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on State of the Union. “The reality is we need to tip the scales, not simply to nudge them. … If Assad continues to have unlimited air power and artillery, that’s a hard battle to win against simple small arms.”
McDonough said the White House was acting cautiously.
“We have to be very discerning, about what’s in our interest and what outcome is best for us. … We’ve rushed to war in this region in the past, we’re not going to do it here,” the White House chief of staff said.
President Obama will attend the G8 Summit this week, where Syria will be a prominent topic. Earlier this morning, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron discussed the conflict with Russian President Vladimir Putin.